Former Indian cricketer Sunil Gavaskar I AFP
New Delhi: Former India cricketer Sunil Gavaskar is not surprised with the non-selection of senior batters Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane in the squad for two Tests against Sri Lanka, terming it 'expected'.
On Saturday, Pujara and Rahane, along with pacer Ishant Sharma and wicketkeeper-batter Wriddhiman Saha didn't find themselves in the squad for the Test series against Sri Lanka in March.
Amidst the chatter of a possible transition phase starting in the Test side, the exclusion of Pujara and Rahane seems to be the first step towards it.
Gavaskar, speaking on Sports Tak, wasn't a bit surprised by the move. In the Test series against South Africa, Rahane made just 136 runs in six innings while Pujara had just 124 runs in as many innings.
"This (Pujara, Rahane not there) was expected because in the three Test matches they played in South Africa, if they scored a century or someone scored knocks of 80-90, then it would have been a different story. Yes, Ajinkya Rahane scored a half-century (at Johannesburg) but apart from that, not many runs were scored when runs were expected of them."
As of now, Rahane and Pujara will continue to take part in the ongoing Ranji Trophy for their respective sides Mumbai and Saurashtra.
Gavaskar was hopeful of them scoring runs to force their way back into the Test team. But at the same time, he admitted that the road to return will be 'difficult'.
"They can come back. Why not? If they show good form in the Ranji Trophy, scoring 200-250 in every Ranji Trophy match, then they can definitely come back. But right now, after this series, India just have a one-off Test with England and then we play Tests only towards the end of the year.
"So I feel time won't be on their side. They'll both be in their mid-30s. And in your mid-30s, if you have opened the door for some younger players, and those players grasp their opportunities (with both hands), then it will be difficult (for Rahane and Pujara) to make a comeback," concluded Gavaskar.
On Saturday, chief selector Chetan Sharma, in a virtual press conference, had said that with Pujara and Rahane going back to playing Ranji Trophy, other players in the side will be given chances against Sri Lanka to stake a claim for spots in the middle order.
"The selection committee came to the decision after thinking for long and had spoken to both (Rahane and Pujara) of them. We had told them that we will not consider them for two Test matches against Sri Lanka. The doors are absolutely open for them and told them to go and play in the Ranji Trophy. Just for the two Test matches, selectors decided to give chance to other cricketers."